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Hard Life for Jackson's Alleged Victim

The boy was treated for leukemia. His father pleaded no contest to charges of injuring his wife and cruelty to a child.

November 22, 2003|Andrew Blankstein, Jean Guccione and Michael Krikorian | Times Staff Writers

The boy authorities say was molested by Michael Jackson reported the pop star's alleged behavior to a therapist, who in June informed Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials, a source close to the boy's family said Friday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the boy's mother began growing suspicious of his relationship with Jackson early this year, about the time ABC broadcast a documentary about the singer. In the documentary, shown Feb. 6, the boy and Jackson are shown holding hands and talking about sleepovers at Jackson's Neverland Ranch.

Within a few weeks, the source said, the mother had consulted an attorney.

The boy met Jackson while he was undergoing treatment for cancer and alleges that the so-called King of Pop served him wine before molesting him several times last winter during visits to Jackson's Santa Ynez Valley compound, according to several sources involved in the case. The boy, who will turn 14 next month, was 12 at the time of the alleged crimes.

Jackson surrendered to Santa Barbara County authorities Thursday after an arrest warrant was issued. Prosecutors said they plan to charge him with multiple counts of child molestation, though they would not be more specific. After being booked and giving up his passport, he posted $3-million bail and was released.

Jackson's defense lawyer, Mark Geragos, said Friday that he plans to meet with Jackson today at Neverland Ranch, a 2,600-acre property complete with an amusement park that was the site of a massive police search Tuesday.

Geragos declined to comment on specifics of the Jackson case Friday, saying he has yet to read any of the prosecution's discovery documents. Geragos said Jackson has proclaimed his innocence and will fight the charges in court.

"Michael is one of the most brilliant, intelligent, strongest human beings I have ever had the pleasure of meeting," said Geragos, 46. "I couldn't be more impressed with him."

The singer's brother, Jermaine Jackson, told ABC News on Friday the accusations are racially motivated. "They're a bunch of racist rednecks out there who don't care about people," Jermaine Jackson said. "He's not a criminal."

Jackson said people are trying to get money out of his brother. "This is extortion -- the second time around," he said, in an apparent reference to Jackson's 1993 settlement with the family of a 13-year-old boy who accused the entertainer of inappropriate conduct. The family received at least $15 million.

Jackson, whose album "Thriller" was one of the world's bestsellers, was believed to be staying in Las Vegas on Friday. The star had been there for much of the week, having just completed work on a music video. He returned briefly to California on Thursday to surrender in Santa Barbara, and returned to Las Vegas immediately after making bail.

Jackson must return to Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Jan. 9 for his arraignment.

Interviews and a review of court documents shows that the boy at the center of the Jackson case has had a turbulent childhood.

The boy had leukemia and received treatment at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

In February 2002, the boy's father was arrested and charged with nine misdemeanor counts, including willful cruelty to a child, records show. Authorities said the boy was the alleged victim in two of those counts.

The father had separated from the boy's mother seven months earlier, after 16 years of marriage. The couple has three children, whose ages now range from 12 to 17.

The boy's father pleaded no contest to a cruelty charge involving an older sister, and was ordered to serve four years' probation and take a parenting class, according to court files. The other charges, including the ones involving the boy, were dismissed.

The father was charged in 2001 with abusing his wife. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of inflicting corporal injury on his wife and received three years' probation.

The wife filed for divorce weeks after she was allegedly beaten and obtained a protective order against him. She also got sole custody of the children.

H. Russell Halpern, an attorney for the boy's father, said he has talked with his client about reopening the custody case.

The boy's relationship with Jackson was the subject of discussion in the media earlier this year when the two appeared in the documentary.

"There was one night I asked him if I could stay in the bedroom. And he let me stay in the bedroom," the boy told interviewer Martin Bashir.

Jackson said that the boy slept in his bed while he slept on the floor. He also defended sharing a bed with children.

Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred filed a complaint with Santa Barbara County child welfare authorities Friday, asking them to investigate whether Jackson's children should be removed from his care.

Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. declined to comment on anything about the case Friday. But he issued a press release Thursday saying no charges would be filed against Jackson until after Thanksgiving.

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Times staff writers Monte Morin and William Overend contributed to this report.

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